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Cancer researchers take top Canadian honours


Three renowned researchers from Queen’s Cancer Research Institute are inaugural winners of the National Cancer Institute of Canada’s (NCIC) Diamond Jubilee Award. Marking the 60th anniversary of the NCIC, the one-time awards are intended to celebrate 10 Canadian scientists who have made outstanding contributions in this field.

The Cancer Research Institute is affiliated with Kingston General Hospital.

Roger Deeley, director of the Cancer Research Institute, and Susan Cole (Division of Cancer Biology and Genetics) have been honoured for their groundbreaking discoveries leading to better understanding of resistance to cancer treatment. Joe Pater, founding director of the NCIC Clinical Trials Group, is recognized for his work in identifying new and effective cancer therapies that have improved patients’ survival and lives.

“We are thrilled that national recognition is being focused on the stellar performance of three of our most distinguished colleagues who have devoted their careers to cancer research,” says Jim Brien (Pharmacology and Toxicology), director of research for the Faculty of Health Sciences. “These awards clearly demonstrate the outstanding quality and sustainability of the Queen’s Cancer Research Institute.”

At the awards dinner, NCIC president and Queen’s professor of Oncology Elizabeth Eisenhauer noted that: “In cancer research, every new finding builds on the one that came before it. Over the past 60 years, researchers have uncovered a multitude of answers to many of the most pressing cancer questions, leading to vast improvements in prevention, early detection and treatment. The outstanding researchers we are honouring today have laid a rock-solid foundation, putting us in a position of great strength to build upon.”

As director of the Queen’s-based Clinical Trials Group for more than 25 years, Joe Pater has overseen more than 300 cancer clinical trials involving more than 45,000 patients worldwide. In 2003, Canada was recognized in a study published in the European Journal of Cancer for having the highest impact factor in clinical cancer research publications than any other country. Dr. Pater’s citation reads, in part: “As CTG director, Dr. Pater deserves a large part of the credit for this international accolade. The clinical trials network that he has established in Canada now serves as a model for other countries around the world.”

In collaboration with Susan Cole, Roger Deeley’s investigations of the causes of multi-drug resistance in human small-cell lung cancer led to the landmark discovery of Multidrug Resistance Protein (MRP) 1 which can prevent chemotherapeutic drugs from accumulating in both normal and cancer cells. Increased activity of MRP1 has been detected in a variety of cancers and has been associated with resistance to chemotherapy. Since the discovery of MRP1, Dr. Deeley has made major contributions to understanding the mechanism by which a family of related drug transporters recognize and transport their drug cargo.

For more than 20 years Dr. Cole’s research has focused on the biological mechanisms that limit the effectiveness of cancer chemotherapy. Of particular focus is MRP1 and related transport proteins that not only pump chemotherapeutic agents out of tumour cells, but also determine the disposition of other drugs as well as chemicals and toxins. Dr. Cole has also investigated the biology of topoisomerase II, a nuclear DNA-modifying enzyme that is an established cellular target for several clinically important anticancer agents.

Also named as NCIC Diamond Jubilee Award winners are: Roy Cameron, executive director of NCIC’s Centre for Behavioural Research and Program Evaluation (University of Waterloo); Anthony Pawson, Samuel Lunenfeld Research Institute/Mount Sinai Hospital; Victor Ling of the BC Cancer Agency/BC Cancer Research Centre; James Till and John Dick from the Ontario Cancer Institute/University Health Network; Ernest McCulloch, retired from Princess Margaret Hospital; and Lesley Degner, Faculty of Nursing (University of Manitoba).

Established in 1947, the NCIC has grown to become Canada’s largest charitably-funded cancer research granting organization. Through investment from the Canadian Cancer Society and The Terry Fox Foundation, NCIC grants cover all facets of cancer research from basic molecular investigations to behavioural and prevention studies.


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